Vitamin E For Acne: Is It Effective? Are There Any Side Effects?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nicholas Jones, MD, FACS
by Ramona Sinha

Advocates of Vitamin E (oil or supplement) swear by its acne-healing properties. However, it depends on how you use it (topically or orally) and in which form (vitamin E oil, products, capsules, or supplements). Research is very limited on the effectiveness of vitamin E on acne, but this antioxidant can keep your skin healthy and protect it from photo aging and cellular damage. In this article, we will tell you all about the efficacy of vitamin E for acne, how you can use it for skin benefits, and the risks associated with it.

Vitamin E Oil For Acne: Is It Effective? What Does Research Say? 

It is effective, but it largely depends on how you are using Vitamin E. However, there’s little clinical proof of the effectiveness of the topical application of vitamin E on acne and acne scars, and the few studies that were conducted in this aspect were also inconclusive and need further clinical evaluation.

For instance, a study found that applying vitamin E before benzoyl peroxide (a medication used for treating acne) could improve the efficacy of the medicine and reduce acne. However, further research is needed to prove the results (1).

Another study found that a combination of vitamins A and E prevented comedone formation, thus preventing further growth of Propionibacterium acnes that cause acne (2).

Some research suggests that ingesting vitamin E supplements or increasing it in your diet can really help reduce acne. A study found that low levels of vitamins A and E in blood plasma could aggravate acne (3). Another study conducted on hairless mice found that both topical and oral vitamin E may help reduce UV-induced skin damage, inflammation, and pigmentation (4).

In a study conducted in Phillipines, the researchers asked the subjects to take a combination of lactoferrin, vitamin E, and zinc orally twice a day for 3 months. They observed a reduction in acne lesions in the lactoferrin group within 2 weeks. (5).

However, further research is still needed to draw a better conclusion on the benefits of Vitamin E in acne management.

So, vitamin E may work in combination with other ingredients and not just as a single treatment. Also, it’s not clear if taking vitamin E supplements or applying it topically works in a particular case. It largely depends on your skin type and how your skin reacts to it. So, before you try using vitamin E or taking supplements, it is important to learn which way is going to be effective for you. For that, you need to consult a dermatologist.

Moreover, using vitamin E (oil, capsule, or supplements) for acne just because it’s a widespread practice may also expose you to its side effects.

Vitamin E For Acne: Potential Risks 

Vitamin E usually does not cause any harm when applied topically unless you are allergic to it. If you are allergic, it may irritate your skin and worsen any existing skin condition. It may even cause contact dermatitis. In a case involving a 63-year-old woman with a history of vitiligo, the use of a vitamin E oil solution on her skin led to the development of new vitiliginous lesions on areas that were previously unaffected (6).

Some vitamin E oils contain certain types of preservatives and stabilizers (a few brands mention them) that may cause problems. The US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate vitamin E oil. This means the same product from two different brands may have different concentrations and might react differently on your skin.

Also, people with oily skin may find vitamin E creams and serums a bit heavy on their skin. If the formula of the product is oil-based, it may end up clogging your skin pores and aggravating acne.

Therefore, check the ingredients list and the formulation carefully before buying vitamin E products and supplements for acne. Also, do an allergy test to find out if you are allergic to vitamin E oil. Moreover, it is better to consult a dermatologist before using anything on your face. Taking proper care before introducing your skin to a new ingredient is the best way to avoid any complications.

There are many ways that you can add vitamin E to your skin care routine to reduce acne. You can do it through products, food items, or supplements. We recommend talking to a doctor before figuring out which method to use.

Ways To Use Vitamin E For Acne

1. Products For Topical Use 

Vitamin E is available as an oil, cream, lotion, and serum. Check for products containing alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). Many people squeeze out the oil from vitamin E capsules for topical application. The oil has a thick consistency, making it a good choice for people with dry and flaky skin. You can also look for products that have vitamin E as one of their ingredients. Such products are good for taking overall care of your skin.

2. Vitamin E Supplements 

Vitamin E supplements are available in capsule or tablet forms. However, there is not enough evidence to determine the correct dosage of vitamin E for both topical and oral use (7). You need to check with a dermatologist to decide if you need to take vitamin E supplements. This is because you may not need to take additional supplements if you are getting enough vitamin E from your diet. The dermatologist may conduct a blood test to determine is you have a vitamin E deficiency.

Also, if you are under medication for any other health issue, talk to your doctor before taking vitamin E supplements as it may interact with the drugs you are taking.

3. Vitamin E Through Diet 

Vitamin E is naturally found in many food items. The richest sources of Vitamin E are whole grains, spinach, nuts, sunflower oil, and olive oil (7). So, eat food like:

  • Nuts and seeds (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds) (8)
  • Vegetable oils especially sunflower, safflower, wheat germ oils (8)
  • Seafood (8)
  • Green veggies and fruits such as spinach, broccoli, mango, and kiwi (8)

Consult a doctor to find out the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E for you. The amount of vitamin E you need depends on your age. However, those who are above 14 years of age (men, women, and pregnant women) need roughly 15 mg of vitamin E daily. However, if you are lactating, you may need up to 19 mg of vitamin E daily (8).

Vitamin E is a versatile antioxidant with innumerable skin benefits, even though its benefits for acne treatment remain inconclusive. You may try using vitamin E oil or products and see if it helps. But, keep in mind that you need to be careful while using it. Any remedy you try takes time to show results. Wait for at least a month before changing your treatment. In case you do not see any results or if your skin reacts negatively to it, consult a dermatologist immediately.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

Can vitamin E oil clog pores?

Vitamin E oil may clog your pores if you have oily skin.

Is it better to take vitamin E orally or topically?

It depends on how it works on your skin and your doctor’s recommendation.

Does vitamin E darken the skin?

No, vitamin E does not darken the skin.

8 sources

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona has a Master's degree in English Literature. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps readers select products and ingredients specific to their skin type and gives out tips to keep their skin healthy in a natural way. When Ramona is not working or experimenting with a new skin care product or ingredient, her books and a passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.
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